Ahead of the weekend here’s some decidedly good news to chew: Schlok’s is finally opening up a bagel shop in NoPa on Wednesday, March 2, as breadheads have hotly anticipated for many months. These dense, chewy, and wildly popular bagels rolled out of the pandemic when they started selling out at the Snug on weekends. Industry buddy duo Zack Schwab, an owner at the Snug, and James Lok, a fine-dining chef coming from Benu and the Restaurant at Meadowood, announced plans to go permanent last spring, but you know how it goes with construction and pandemic delays (and city bureaucracy, as eye-rolled by the San Francisco Chronicle). No matter — it’s always bagel season in San Francisco, and these heavyweights have finally landed with a satisfying thud.
Of all the bagels rising in the Bay, Schlok’s distinguish themselves by being New York City in style, which means they rely on conventional yeast, rather than San Francisco sourdough or whole grains. A Schlok’s bagel is sizeable, chewy, and dense, with “a slightly crustier crust,” Lok says. The bagels for the pop-up were originally hand-rolled, but the shop has since invested in a specialty machine to shape them at volume, and even Lok flew to Indiana to meet with the manufacturer and dial in the dimensions. He still cold-proofs the dough overnight to let it reach full height and boils it in malt for full flavor. Perhaps the most visible difference: Lok only dips half of the bagel in seeds, and flips them early on to bake said seeds directly against the hot stone of the oven.
“It’s a one-sided bagel, but a heavily seeded side,” he says. “I like the duality of that.” It shows off the deeply burnished crust on one side and extra toasty and crunchy toppings on the other.
As promised, Schlok’s is not a full-service deli; it’s a hard-churning bagel shop, and the menu is emphatically simple. The bagels come in six familiar flavors: plain, sesame, poppyseed, onion, sea salt, and everything (sorry, pumpernickel people). The schmears are simply whipped cream cheese with four different toppings: scallions, garlic, baked tomato, and chopped lox, which are cured in-house. There are three bagel sandwiches, which are not extravagant affairs, but lox, ham, and veggie options. Lok has chilled out a few fine-dining flourishes, abandoning piped cream cheese squiggles in favor of faster swipes. Oh, and coffee is courtesy of Saint Frank. Only drip. No espresso.
Bagels can be sliced and topped on the spot or bagged by the dozen to take home. They cost three dollars a pop — and the guys don’t want to hear any gripes, they say that’s what it costs to use good ingredients and pay good people in San Francisco. “There is one other controversial thing we’re doing,” Schwab says, prompting his chef friend. “We’re not going to be toasting our bagels,” Lok says. “It would almost be like baking it twice.” But the bagels won’t just be baked fresh daily, they’ll be firing throughout the day with the goal of getting warm bagels into customers’ hands within a few hours for the ideal contrast in textures. (Although of course, if you toast one at home in your jammies the next morning, that’s entirely your business.)
Schlok’s new home is at 1263 Fell Street just off of Divisadero near the DMV. They’ve converted a former laundromat, which now flaunts a jaunty salmon pink and navy blue exterior with big windows looking in on the bagel works. Jim Maxwell of Architects II and Cookline contractors dug into the buildout, maneuvering large equipment into a small storefront. In addition to the divider and former that pops out dough, there are two reinforced spiral mixers that each weigh a ton, and a horizontal carousel oven that stands at nine feet square. Previously, the pop-up did 450 bagels a weekend out of the Snug; by comparison, the shop now opens with the goal of producing 1,000 bagels per day and hopes to ramp up.
The shop is takeout only, with two windows that open out onto the street, one for orders and the other for pickup. There’s no seating, but then again, it’s a short jaunt to either the Panhandle or Alamo Square, if you want to walk a bagel to the park.
NoPa is on a roll with hot new bakery openings: Schlok’s is two doors down from Hahdough, winner of best new bakery in the 2021 Eater Awards, and blocks from the new Automat and Bob’s Donuts. And it joins a bagel boom in the Bay Area, as Boichik expands in Berkeley, Midnite Bagels moves into the Inner Sunset, and Poppy Bagels has found a forever home in Temescal, which may astonish some New Yorkers, but won’t surprise San Franciscans. We know we’ve got the best bakeries in the country.
Schlok’s opens for bagel business on March 2. Hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to noon or sold out. Online orders can be placed ahead for pickup.